This sectioncovers the littoral provinces of Binh Thuan, Ninh Thuan, Khanh Hoa, Phu Yen, Binh Dinh and Quang Ngai. The cities, towns, beaches and historical sites in this region, most of which are along National Highway 1, referred to by many foreign tourists as the “Ho CHi Minh Trail” (the real one is actually farther inland), appear in this chapter from north to south.
Some of Vietnam’s most beautiful beaches are scattered alogn the coast, and there are many ruins of Cham culture. If you are heading north, be sure to visit the Museum of Cham Sculpturein Danang, which has an extensive and fine collection of Cham statuary (see the Central Vietnam Chapter).
The south-central coast is logically best known for its excellent seafood. Another regional treat is green dragon fruit (thanh long), grown widely around Phan Rang. The southernmost province, Binh Thuan, is one of the most arid regions of Vietnam (particularly north of Phan Thiet). The nearby plains, dominated by rocky, roundish mountains, support some marginal irrigated rice farms.
There is also easy access in and out of the mountainous regions inland from several points along the coast (see the Central Highlands chapter).
tel 055 pop 108,200
Quang Ngai, the capital of Quang Ngai province, ordders very little to see or do, but makes a convenient stoppover spot for travellers along National Hwy 1.
Built on the southern bank of the Tra Khuc River (known for its oversized water wheel), the city is about 15km from the coast. The city and province of Quang Ngai are also known as Quang Nghia; the name is sometimes abbreviated to Quangai.
Even before WWII, Quang Ngai was an important centre of resistance to the French. During the Franco – Viet Minh War, the area was a Viet Minh stronghold. In 1962, the South Vietnamese Government introduced its ill-fated Stratergic Hamlets Program to the area. Villagers were forcibly reomved from their homes and resettled in fortified hamlets, infuriating and alienating the local population and increasing popular support for the Viet Cong (VC). Soem of the bitterest fighting of the Maerican War took place in Quang Ngai province.
Son My subdistrict, 14km north of Quang Ngai, was the scene of the infamous My Lai Massare of 1968, in which hundres of civilian were slaughtered by US soldiers. A memorial has been erected on the site of the killings.
As a result of these wars, very few of the older bridge in Quang Ngai province remain intact. At many river crossings, the ruststreaked concrete pylons of the old French built bridges, probably destroyed by the Viet Minh, stand next to the ruins of their replacements, blown up by the VC.
National Hwy 1 is called Đ QUang Trung as it passes through Quang Ngai. The train station is 1.5km west of the town centre, on Đ Hung Vuong.
The main post office (cnr Đ Hung Vuong & Đ Phan Dinh Phung)is 150m west of Đ Quang Trung.
Places to Stay
Hotel 502 (tel 822656; 28 Đ Hung Vuong; fan rooms from US$6; air-con US$10) is worth a try if you’re looking for a peaceful night’s sleep; it’s in a courtyard down a quite alley. The room are clean.
Kim Thanh Hotel (tel 823471; 19 Đ Hung Vuong; doubles US$10-15) seems fairly well attuned to the backacker market.
Dong Hung Hotel (tel 821704; rooms with fan & cold water US$4, air-con rooms US$7-10) is on the busy central artery town.
Central Hotel (tel 829999, fax 822460; [email protected]; 784 Đ Quang Trung; doubles US$35-65), one of the classiet accommodation options in Quang Ngai, is located at the southern end of town. This fancy pleasure palace includes facilities such as a tennis court and swimming pool.
My Tra Hotel (tel 842985, fax 842980; rooms US$25-40) is another upmarket place, although it is not as good value as the Centre Hotel. Rates include breakfast. It’s on the northern outskirts of town, just across the Tra Khuc river.
Places to Eat
Quang Ngai province is famous for a local delicacy called com ga, which actually orginates further north at Tam Ky. It consists of boiled chicken over yellow rice (the colour comes from being steamed with chicken broth) with a mint leaf garnish, plus egg-drop soup and pickled vegies on the side. It is indeed dlicious and something any chicken lover should try. At about 7000d per plate, you might even have two. There are several places in town to try this treat (just look for signs reading com ga), including Hue Restaurant on Đ Nguyen Nghiem. There are also two very cheap rice restaurants at 30 and 34 Phan Chu Trinh.
If you are after dark, the food stalls on Đ Quang Trung, near the Song Tra Hotel, tend to stay open later than restaurants in town.
Getting There & Away
Bus Express buses depart from Quang Ngai bus station (Ben xe khach Quang Ngai; opposite 32 Đ Nguyen Nghiem), about 100m east of Đ Quang Trung (National Hwy) .
Minibus There are plenty of tourist minibuses that travel between Quang Ngai and Hoi An for around US$5. Quang Ngai is about 100km from Hoi An; the ride takes about two hours.
Train Reunificaiton Express trains stop at Quang Ngai – see the Train section in the Getting Around chapter.
The Quang Ngai train station (Ga Quang Ngia, Ga Quang Ngai) is 1.5km west of the centre of town.
Car & Motorbike From Quang Ngai road distances are: 131km to Danang; 860km to HoChiMinh City (HCMC); 412km to Nha Trang; and 174km to Qui Nhon.